(North Sydney) (10:02): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, I present the committee’s Report on the inquiry into the quality of care in aged care facilities in Australia, together with the minutes of proceedings.
Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).
Providing high-quality residential care to older Australians is an obligation we have as a society and as a parliament.
It is both a debt we must pay to those generations who have done so much to build our prosperous nation and also, fundamentally, a basic human right.
Australia’s residential aged care provides a home to nearly 240,000 Australians. Many are providing aged care which is delivered to a high standard and does provide older Australians with a safe environment to age with dignity and the care they need.
Yet there are also many who have not had such a positive experience. In the worst cases, older Australians—our mums and dads—have been the subject of abuse and mistreatment.
Australia’s residential aged-care facilities have come under increased scrutiny as high-profile reports of mistreatment have come to light and have been investigated.
Shocking failures in the provision of care at facilities such as Oakden, in South Australia, have rightly led to a re-evaluation of how the aged-care sector is regulated.
When regulatory authorities are giving a certification to a place subsequently found to be so wretchedly wanting, we know something has gone severely wrong.
While perhaps the worst example, Oakden cannot be seen as an isolated event. Investigative reporting such as that undertaken by Four Corners recently has highlighted other serious examples of mistreatment. This parliamentary inquiry has received submissions from residents and family members often outlining what can only be described as harrowing experiences. This is simply not acceptable in a nation like Australia.
This parliamentary inquiry has followed a number of government initiated reviews, all of which have made important contributions. More recently, the seriousness of concern about mistreatment in the aged-care sector has led the government to establish a royal commission.
The committee has welcomed this announcement and the continued focus on quality and safety in aged care. At the same time, the Australian government has been implementing a number of major reforms flowing from the work of earlier inquiries.
While it is too early to examine whether these sectoral reforms will be effective, the committee considers that they are a positive change and will lead to a stronger and more responsive residential aged-care sector.
As Australia’s population lives longer, demand for aged-care services will inevitably grow. By 2056, it is estimated that 22 per cent of the population will be made up of older Australians. At the same time, rates of dementia, for example, are expected to increase to around one million people across the nation.
The need for a streamlined, responsive residential aged-care system is clear, and recent and upcoming reforms will help the evolving aged-care system in Australia.
The committee have considered these reforms but believe there is more that can be done to improve our aged-care system and that we shouldn’t wait for the royal commission to deliver its own findings. Our 14 recommendations that we’ve tabled today include such matters as:
Improving the Commonwealth’s community visitors program to ensure volunteers visiting aged-care facilities are better able to respond to suspected abuse;
Reviewing the Aged Care Funding Instrument to ensure it is providing both adequate levels of funding and also, just as importantly, the type of care that meets the needs of aged-care residents today;
Ensuring that all aged-care facilities are required to have at least one registered nurse onsite 24 hours a day and that more work be done to monitor staffing mixes and their impacts on reducing complaints and abuse;
Improving consumer information provided to aged-care residents;
Developing mandatory and more effective quality indicators;
Cracking down on the use of restrictive practices
Developing a consumer rating system for aged-care facilities; and
Providing consumers with greater transparency about complaints lodged against individual aged-care centres.
I want to thank the many organisations and individuals who made submissions to this inquiry. I also thank my fellow committee members, who have worked together to deliver a bipartisan report, and I particularly acknowledge in the chamber my deputy chair, the member for Hindmarsh.
The committee is also indebted to the work of the committee staff, who have provided such professional support to our deliberations.
Ensuring Australians are provided with residential aged care they can trust must be a priority for the Australian government and all of us as parliamentarians.
As all of us age, we should do so confident that, if we need residential aged care, the final chapters of our lives can be lived with dignity.
And as children, we so desperately want to ensure that our parents are afforded the same love, care and support that they have bestowed upon us.
As a nation, it is a test of our commitment to both those who are vulnerable and those on whose shoulders Australia has been built. We need to ensure that the aged-care system is meeting their needs.
Our hope is that this report will provide additional impetus to ensuring that all of these goals are achieved.